It was a real pleasure at the weekend to enjoy a meal in a local restaurant for the first time in three months. I was lucky to be in Strangford village on Friday, a place where you are spoilt for choice of places to eat such as Artisan Cookhouse and The Lobster Pot with The Cuan reopening soon. We’ve missed being able to experience superb food in one of our Taste of Ulster restaurants – within social distancing regulations of course. It’s really heartening to see many of the hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes reopening again after what has been an immensely challenging period for everyone.
Comber market also re-opened on Thursday and it was encouraging to see the crowds of shoppers, socially distanced of course, smiling and chatting to local producers and picking up local produce to enjoy at home. Around 1,000 shoppers supported one of the best local food markets here and purchased food from around two dozen smaller producers which also faced challenges during the lockdown. Other markets are now functioning including Ards, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and Lisburn. The popular Causeway Market in Coleraine will be open again on Saturday.
Our many members are adapting extremely well to what has become known as the ‘new normal’. It isn’t easy.However, necessity is the mother of invention and there have been some highly impressive innovations undertaken by restaurants offering takeaway gourmet meals. The feedback on the quality and taste of these has been super, especially for dishes that people do not wish to cook at home. I understand several restaurants plan to continue to offer a takeaway option as part of their new business model.
In Food NI, we’ve sought to support and encourage over the lockdown and will continue to do so in the months and years ahead.
As a measure of this commitment, Food NI was delighted to be approached by Mash Direct, a much valued Food NI member company which is recognised internationally as a pioneering and award-winning producer of ‘field-to-fork’ vegetable sides and convenience dishes. Mash Direct proposed a brilliant initiative that will help our local hospitality sector and specifically Taste of Ulster eateries. It’s an imaginative scheme that’s also shaped to promote food and drink produced here.
This is how it will work: Mash Direct is spearheading a‘Dine in to Dine Out’ campaign throughout the months of July and August, giving their consumers the chance to win one of 30 £100 vouchers which they can spend in an award-winning Taste of Ulster restaurant of their choice.
It is an on-pack promotion across Mash Direct’s comprehensive range of fresh, nutritious, and convenient vegetable side dishes available in food retailers up and down the country, throughout multiple convenience stores and independents. Lucky winners will be able to choose from a vast range of local restaurants throughout Northern Ireland which have the ‘Taste of Ulster’ award. The winners can count on really memorable meals with great customer service.
Mash Direct, of course, supplies many of the restaurants as well as major retailers with fresh, nutritious, and convenient vegetable side dishes. The pioneering company’s products are home grown on the Co Down family farm. The company has also adapted successfully to the growing consumer demand for free-from products. Each product is low in saturated fat, gluten-free and free from artificial colours and flavours.
It is the first time we have worked with a local producer to promote Taste of Ulster eateries, and I hope it isn’t the last. ‘Dine in to dine out’ celebrates the great community spirit that exists among our award winning, quality food and drink community in Northern Ireland.
Things are beginning to look up again for hospitality and local food producers. Let’s do our bit to ensure both sectors continue to prosper.
Customers can enter a promotional code found on packs to www.mashdirect.com/dineout for their chance to win a Taste of Ulster Restaurant voucher.
The lucky winners will be able to choose from a vast range of local restaurants throughout Northern Ireland which are ‘Taste of Ulster’ members.